(this post was taken from Go Means Go)
There is still a lot of debate over the tactics used by the diverse groups that gathered to protest the WTO in late November, 1999. At the time, I was classified as one of the “undesirables”, “ruining the protest for the non-violent protesters.” I’ve got many stories about what took place in Seattle, and my whole outlook on the future of protest in the US and beyond changed after that time. I stand by the actions taken by all during the WTO protest. Everyone there was concerned about the decisions made and actions taken by those involved with the WTO. Most of us were angry. No one really knows who took action against the other first. But what we do know is that it escalated rapidly. That anger and rage felt was directed at buildings and what they stood for, not people. The protesters there were unarmed. Even the mean, nasty ones in black clothing.
After the WTO I went home to Alaska; sick as a dog- lungs burning from chemicals, body bruised from rubber bullets, and heart saddened by what seemed to me a new division within groups of protesters. I still believe there is a need for Black Blocs. I feel that people fighting back for their rights is something that is built into the core of this country, however distant it feels to most Americans. Martial Law is not ok. Police firing blindly in to the public is not ok. As crazy as it may sound, I think it’s is good for people to see the way that our government handles people that disagree with it’s actions. We are still at war around the world- we should be thankful that we don’t see Martial Law everyday, as many around the world do.
I didn’t come back to Seattle after the WTO until I moved here, 3 years ago. When I walk around, I still see buildings that we had meetings in, hid out in, or that were raided by police. I see flashes of the police rolling down the street, raising hell, and hurting people. It’s just a flash, but I still feel a little of the anger that ran through my veins at the time.
Some of the images that stick in my mind:
-A elderly wheelchair bound man, knocked over, as panic takes over the crowd when police started firing concussion grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas into the crowd.
-A woman with blood running down her face, who said she was the wife of a cop, a concussion grenade had gone off in her face.
-Pedicabs rushing up and down the street evacuating those overcome by teargas.
-Armored cars with police clinging to the side, brandishing very intimidating firearms.
-Tee shirts for sale on Pike St. days after the riots that said “WTO 11/30/99- Thanks Seattle, it was a riot”
-Seeing a news van at Westlake Center gets it’s tires slashed, and graffiti, and later in the day, watching the same van drive through downtown on it’s rims, making a hell of a racket. (that was pretty funny to be honest)
My actions now are much more conservative. I am 10 years older, and much has changed. My community is still important to me, but I feel like my organizing efforts go into more positive realms. Like bikes. Bikes are a catalyst for change. So innocent looking in their subversion. First somebody might come to a bike event, then they might go on a ride, then- maybe then they’ll go buy some local produce, or heck, even grow there own. It’s the little things- we are but the sum of our parts. With that- be nice, do good, and go ride your bike.
I picked up the video over at TakeoverLA
And I’m just going to give a shout to Michael over at BikeBlogNYC, because he was in Seattle then too, and he probably has many of the same stories. He wrote a post up over at his site too.